Reviewed – The Young Hornblower

Sometimes TV series made from the stories of books don’t work.

Sometimes a book which you think will be a rip-roaring yarn will surprise you.

Sometimes you get to the end of a book and go ‘that goodness that is over’.

Normally, I’m a fair, if not enthusiastic reviewer – that’s because I actually like books I read.

Sadly, this book did nothing for me, and in the end, I went to Wikipedia and read the entry to see where our jolly hero, Horatio Hornblower, ends up.

The TV series was much better. It took some liberties and while very tally ho, ‘boys’ own’ type of baby Master and Commander, it was not too bad.

This book, however, requires you almost to be trilingual: English, whist, and 1800th century sailing.

I could handle the English. The whist lost me completely (it’s a card came, which they played because there wasn’t Angry Birds to waste time on), and I got the ‘don’t crash the ship on the rocks’ thing. The rest of the whist and the endless jargon-filled and laboured technicalities of the ships ruined the book and in the end, I just hoped it would end.

It’s a pity, because the stories themselves aren’t bad – though I was lost wondering how he went from just meeting a young lady to marrying her in the space of a page, it seemed. No courting. Just – met, married, off to sea again.

Hornblower’s self-reflection the author spends some time considering in the early part of the book, which is interesting and endearing, is replaced later by the more officious Hornblower. More exploration as to how his opinions and views changed would have been better than the (as noted) endless mainsails, topsails, bosuns, lob lolly boys and press ganged sailors.

You could read this book and the one after it and the one after it – but I won’t be. The padding of the card games and the incredibly dry (!) and boring details of the sailing hither and tither, or whatever.

Watch the TV series. Actually, watch Boardwalk Empire. Or The West Wing. Or Friday Night Lights. Learn a new hobby.

Just don’t bother reading this book.